Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Bacterial food poisoning is an illness resulting from eating contaminated food. It is a common condition caused by a variety of bacteria (Table 1). The diagnosis is usually made by the symptoms and the fact that a group of individuals who ate the same foods have similar symptoms. It is generally a selflimited disease that will resolve in a few days. One form of food poisoning, botulism, is life-threatening however.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Symptoms of bacterial food poisoning generally develop within 48 hours of eating the contaminated food. Nausea and vomiting with abdominal cramps develop. Diarrhea is common and, depending on the causative organism, may have blood in it. Fever may also be present. In severe cases, shock and electrolyte abnormalities can develop because of the diarrhea and vomiting.

The key to treatment is the replacement of fluids and electrolytes. Oral fluids such as clear broth or special oral glucose-electrolyte preparations can be given. Take small, frequent sips even if vomiting continues. If symptoms are severe, hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be necessary. If the causative agent is known, antibiotics may be of benefit in treating certain organisms.

The DOs
• Bed rest with ready access to bathroom or bedpan is necessary.
• Continue to try to take oral fluids even if vomiting continues.
• Advance to a soft, bland diet as tolerated. Then gradually return to a normal diet over 1 or 2 days.
• Avoid dairy products and antacids containing magnesium if diarrhea is present.
• Save any samples of recently eaten food that may help identify the cause.
• Contact the local health department if multiple individuals are affected. They can help identify the source of the infection.
• Maintain proper hygiene while preparing foods. Wash hands between the handling of different foods. Keep the cooking area and all utensils clean.
• Properly cook and store foods. Throw out foods that do not “smell right” or are in bulging cans.
• Wash the hands after using the bathroom.

The DON’Ts
• Avoid raw seafood or meat.
• Avoid fresh vegetables that have not been properly washed.
• Avoid unpasteurized food products.
• Avoid drinking water and eating raw foods when traveling in foreign countries. Fruits that are peeled before eating are generally safe.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If young children or older adults have symptoms of food poisoning.
• If symptoms worsen after treatment begins.
• If vomiting is so severe that you are unable to keep liquids down.

Table 1.
Organism Source How is it transmitted?

Campylobacter jejuni: Milk and poultry Eating undercooked poultry,meat, or raw dairy products.
Salmonella: Eggs and meat, Eating undercooked poultry,especially poultry eggs, meat, or raw dairy products.
Clostridium perfringens: Spores in food Eating contaminated meat,gravies, dried foods, andvegetables.
Staphylococcus aureus: Food contaminated Eating contaminated foods.by humans Especially high-protein foods, egg salad, cream- filled pastries, poultry, and ham.
Bacillus cereus: Spores in food Eating contaminated cereals, fried rice, dried foods, and herbs.
E. coli: Varies Eating raw vegetables and other foods. Drinking contaminated water.